The Reception of Eugenic Ideas in Jewish
Medical Circles in Interwar Poland
On account of eugenics being associated with Nazi racial policy, until recently there has been little discussion of Jewish eugenics. There is no doubt that eugenics, effectively a value judgment about the worth of human beings, has racist connotations. However, its evaluation solely in the context of the Nazi experience disregards the enormous popularity of eugenic ideas that related to social life, and the diversity of the international eugenic movement in the interwar period. The movement was not an ideological monolith, and the solutions to social problems postulated by the advocates of eugenic ideas were attractive for many societies aiming at the biological regeneration of the population. Historical sources reveal that the concept of a distinctive Jewish race, and the program to eliminate "unfit" elements of Jewish society, did receive backing from Jewish medical circles during the interwar period.
In its heyday, eugenics was enthusiastically endorsed by advocates of the Zionist movement, which, as Raphael Falk has noted, evolved from a similar intellectual background, and had analogous goals, to the eugenic movement: "Whereas eugenics aspired to redeem the human species by forcing it to face the realities of its biological nature, Zionism aspired to redeem the the people by forcing it to face the realities of its biological existence."1 In Zionist circles, it was emphasized that the preservation of the biological and cultural distinctiveness of the Jews living in diaspora would be much more advantageous for humanity than their assimilation into a foreign milieu. According to the Jewish anthropologist Arthur Ruppin (1876–1944):